Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more revered than plausible, and more advised than confident.
Finding judges of constitutional courts increasingly deviating from the impassioned and impartial path of adjudication, the Supreme Court iterated the cardinal principles a Judge must adhere to while deciding a case.
An SC bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh said “the necessity has arisen again for reiteration of fundamental principles to be adhered to by a judge”. Misra quoted Francis Bacon, who had said, “Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more revered than plausible, and more advised than confident.”
What triggered the SC’s observations was the decision of a bench of Meghalaya high court to take suo motu cognisance of two issues simultaneously — Meghalaya Lokayukta Act permitting appointment of a non-judicial person as Lokayukta and non-constitution of the state human rights commission.
After Meghalaya counsel Ranjan Mukherjee assured the apex court that the state HRC would be made functional by June, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh faulted the HC’s division bench for taking suo motu cognisance of non-appointment of Lokayukta and seeking answers from the state as to why the legislature allowed appointment of a person other than a retired judge as Lokayukta. Writing the judgment for the bench, Misra frowned at the HC’s indiscretion in taking suo motu cognisance when there was no challenge to the constitutional validity of the Lokayukta Act’s provisions.
“This may be thought of in rare circumstances depending on the nature of legislation and the collective benefit but in that arena also, the HC can’t raise the issue relating to any particular provision and seek explanation in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226,” Justice Misra said.
The Supreme Court came down on the Meghalaya high court over the latter’s taking suo motu notice of the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act permitting appointment of a non-judicial person as Lokayukta and non-constitution of the state human rights commission.
“In the case in hand, as is manifest, the division bench of the high court has, with an erroneous understanding of fundamental principles of law, scanned the anatomy of the provision and passed an order in relation to it as if it is obnoxious or falls foul of any constitutional provision. The same is clearly impermissible,” the apex court said.
The Supreme Court bench also quoted New York Times’s September 2, 1962 editorial titled ‘The Frankfurter Legacy’. It talked about Justice Felix Frankfurter’s legacy as a judge – “detachment, rigorous integrity in dealing with the facts of a case, refusal to resort to unworthy means no matter how noble the end, and dedication to the court as an institution”.
The bench cited an earlier Supreme Court judgment, which said, “No adjudicator or a judge can conceive the idea that the sky is the limit or, for that matter, there is no barrier or fetters in one’s individual perception, for judicial vision should not be allowed to be imprisoned and have the potency to cover celestial zones.”